LOUISE PENNY’S

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Join us here in The Bistro for a discussion on the entire Gamache series. Feel free to ask or answer any questions about any of the books or the series as a whole.

Discussion on “The Bistro”

I asked my teenage daughter what she was doing on her iPad while we waited for lunch in our favourite cafe. “Writing a story with my friend over Skype”.
Turns out collabrative writing is something she and her friends do a lot but they don’t save their stories, which are long and involved. It’s just a way to hang out! Some of her friends do write on fandom sites etc.

I feel comfortable that writing will be with us always.

Julie, I will be totally curious two know if who you thought ‘dunnit’ turned out to be correct. Depends of course where you were in the book when you thought that!

Can I tell you a secret….I wasn’t too sure who was the villain myself until I finished the book. Kept me wanting to write for sure. The other secret is I have no idea where the action sequences came from.

I did guess correctly but at the very first hint I wasn’t sure the incident was meant to be a clue. I’ll have to check to see were I caught on.

I guessed at a bit more than half way. I’m not a very good detective but I enjoy mysteries.

Well you can just knock me down with a feather! The major action scenes came easily to me (I too have no idea where they simmered, either). It’s the in between parts that I find harder, the how much background is too much and where should it be… Oh well, I guess that’s what editing is for, right? Again, well done!

Wowee – finished now, and it was a roller-coaster! The characters are wonderful, and the “peril scenes” (for want of a better term) were breath-taking! I had the villain right, but not until you wanted me to see it. It wasn’t any great vision on my part, that’s for sure, hahahaha. It wasn’t until the cave scene. I followed along with the first misdirection, and was so concerned for Mattie! I was kind of impatient with Thomas for not telling what he knew – completely understand it – but I couldn’t help thinking, just as he did, that if he’d told it earlier, two people’s lives wouldn’t have been endangered. Then again, the third might have not been discovered until too late.

I really think you’ve done a masterful story here, Anna – and I’m very serious – I think you ought to find a literary agent – this book, and the next coming up should have a much wider audience…

Thanks Julie!
It really isn’t a who dunnit as such. I think the story holds whether you know who the villain is or not. I am no Agatha Christie that’s for sure but then I was more interested in a character driven story.

Agatha was always able to fool me – right down to seeing the Mousetrap in London! (I’ll never tell!) But I agree – it isn’t the whodunnit that’s important in stories – there’s lots where I don’t know who the culprit is till the very end, but I don’t engage with the characters. That’s the acid test for me – do I care about these people in more than just a general way? Can I even tell them apart? So often, I just get lots, because, other than giving them all names, the author hasn’t managed to make each person an individual. You did a great job of that!

But I also was meaning to say that you did great at building suspense and bringing me along on a very hair-raising time. That I was worried so much for Mattie, and thinking the same things as Thomas, until we were in the cave, and then some things that Darryl said meant I could take the final leap – and then, of course I was worried for more people… But it was all because of how you wrote it… masterful!

I just read on the previous page that you reread The Cove Barbara! That puts you in a very small group for sure!

Anna, I haven’t reread it yet but I totally agree with Barbara’s comments. I want to know more about Mattie and Thomas and all the rest. That’s good writing.

Thanks Nancy! Me too. I am having trouble sitting at the computer and letting it flow. Before I wrote The Cove I spent weeks with just that first scene in my head and it wouldn’t budge until I started to write. Then every night I would go to bed and some new scene would play until I wrote some more.

Something similar is happening now but I am getting scenes from three different books if I am not mistaken. Book two is clarifying and I think I could write that but then book three started to play and in the last few days book four. I realised then that there was a continuing arc that I didn’t know about until now and I am letting it solidify. I do hope it comes off as I am so keen to see what happens!

Thanks Nancy. The world of The Cove gets stronger the more people who believe in it! Kind of like Tinkerbell. Because your belief makes the characters more real. Like Three Pines. It’s not just a place in a book, it’s alive in the world because we believe.

Oh, this is exciting! I find it fascinating that all this was “in” you and all you had to do was let it out! I am saving the last chapter for later today – I’ve now come to the part where I don’t want the book to end…

Fess up time! Was telling my hubby about mentioning here how I ‘mumble’ curses at my computer… He said, Mumble?”
So I replied, “OK, sometimes I sound like Ruth!”
“Sometimes,” he asked. So I sent him laughing to his armoire!

Barbara, and anyone else who wants to play along. How about you guess away, and I be the one not to say ‘who’ till I finish? Correct guesses get a free copy! I was told a long time ago that excitement was the flip side of fear! I have to turn my fears into excitement. You have helped so much already but I have a lot of fears to overcome… And I’m not sure why! I can sit at The Bistro and write with abandon and joy. Maybe because you are all so kind and I have found acceptance here, rather than rejection. For that I thank you all.

Barbara, since you like to research, here’s an area in which I could use help: what are the duties of an Ambassador? Some people say to ‘write what you know”. Others suggest to write what you want to know more about. I like both so it’s a complex story written from many points of view. As I used to tell my husband when tackling something ‘new’ for the community theatre or the City Council, “What have I gotten myself into?” 😉 I need to start to answer my own question with just one word: FUN!

Thanks for allowing me to say who I think is the Pope you are writing about. I think Pope Callixtus III. I was surprised to see who his family was. I need to read some history as I have them incorrectly placed in my memory. You are so much Fun.

Thanks, Barbara, for saying I’m fun. 😀
Just following Gamache’s lead trying to turn my hell to heaven!

This is so funny – I love games and yet, I can’t play this one, as I have so little knowledge of medieval times and religion in particular. So remember, Millie – you are writing for people like me, who come into this with no prior knowledge…

Thank you. I have hours of reading ahead on the primary sources alone. Enjoyed reading the Thomas Cromwell section. Previously, I had thought Henry protestant. His view was very involved I see.

Julie, it’s not only spelling that the ‘great minds’ who dictate our educational system have decided is no longer important to teach – cursive writing is no longer taught. I recently came across a great quote, “There is great value in cursive writing, it seems the act of connecting letters to each other also aids with the connection of thoughts.”
I remember how hard it was for me to switch to directly typing out my thoughts, rather than put them on actual paper, first. So maybe there is some truth to that. Or maybe not? It took me several years but I adapted.

I think we have to learn to adapt or we die. If not physically, a part of us certainly doesn’t thrive. I think that’s where I am now. In the middle of ‘adapting’ to so many changes. If taken singly, no problem. But so many, right on top of each other is a bit overwhelming… But I’m not giving up. The intention is there and I think it all starts with that. Then we try to do a bit more each day, or night, as the case may be.

I’m beginning to think that if I’m to get any more writing done, I have to give up on trying to change what has become my body’s new normal sleep cycle. The middle of the night is when the ideas burst forth without ‘working’ for it. During the day, there’s not much there. And I’m not talking about inspiration. I mean my brain / mind starts to actively work on the story after midnight, even when I want to just quiet all thoughts. So… I’ll just work with what I’ve got for now. Otherwise I will drive myself nuts trying to deal with yet another change and get no where fast!

I have to start to love myself the way my husband does, “just the way I am.”

Thanks Julie, I didn’t intend to end up having an ‘aha’ moment when I started this comment, but it’s another example of, “I don’t know what I’m thinking until I write it down and read it.” Wish I could remember who said it! Oh well, it’s still daylight! ROFLOL!

Oh, that’s funny, Millie – and I think you should totally go with when your body is telling you that your mind is at its best! I agree with the idea that cursive is an important thing to learn – if only so future generations will still be able to read old manuscripts, etc. The minute a manuscript is transferred to typing, it has been altered – run through someone else’s brain – and so it has been “interpreted”. To read something as it was originally written is the place where true knowledge and understanding begins, I think. I worry very much that in one or two generations, people won’t even be able to read typeset material from very long before their own time, because they will all be speaking in texting code, LOL! (irony intended). Only specially educated people will be able to interpret the classics, and we’ll find ourselves repeating some very bad times when the elite classes held all the knowledge…

Well, aren’t I the little philosopher today, hahaha.

Julie, I LOL at your pet peeves. Could have been my list. I almost scream when I see 4 used for four in ads. That and intentional misspellings tell me one thing. I don’t want to shop there ever. I can not read printed material without “editing” it in my mind. I even edit speakers. No wonder I am so hard on my self.

I know just what you mean, Barbara – it’s so funny. I KNOW that spelling doesn’t have a thing to do with a person’s intelligence, or even whether or not they can write a compelling paragraph, but it’s hard not to let my perceptions be colored. All because of my very strict teachers when I grew up! My best friend in the world is about 10 years younger than me, and grew up in a Montessori school sort of world. It was her dear ego that they were afraid of squashing if they mentioned that something was spelled wrong… fast forward 40 years and she is so frustrated because she can’t spell and she has let it make her feel like she can’t write or speak – it’s been paralyzing for her. And she is very intelligent. I wish those teachers could be dug up and flogged! (and I know it’s not the individual teachers – it’s the system – but really, would it have been so hard to teach those kids the right way to do things?)

Off my soapbox now.

I posted before I did something to lose it.
Millie, I read Pope Joan(?) with a book club. While the idea provokes controversy, it was interesting reading. My point being, writing about a person about whom little is known can be a challenge and can also provide the opportunity for creativity. The Medieval Period is a fascinating time offering a writer many options and ideas. Not to push you…just excited about the prospects.

That book is waiting in a box for me to read it. Did you like it? And, No, it’s not THAT Pope. lol
Thanks for the excitement. You really are a sweetheart.

Recently heard an interview of another fav author, Diana Gabaldon where she was asked how much ‘research’ does she do? Her response floored me, “I research as I write, but most of the time I’ll add a note in the first draft to research X. I could research a subject till I die, so I only do enough to be sure what I’m saying is in the right time period, then move on…
Sounds like I have plenty already for me to ‘move on’ past chapter 1!

I love to research but one thing leads to another and before I realize I am far from topic.
I might know who your pope is but not a word until you have written the book. I’ll say then if I am right. If so, you do have an exciting time ahead I think. Don’t fret if you don’t get all the facts you want. As has been said you don’t intend to write his biography.
Bubble thought—–Wolf Hall aired on PBS last Sun. and so far is true to the book. I want to find out more about Thomas Cromwell but his name brings me nothing in the Pines Library System. I’ll just have to try some other sources.

I do that too, make a note of a detail I need and then only look that up. Otherwise research dominates all your time, particularly for something like you are doing. You need a balance between a broad knowledge of the setting which needs some reading, as I suspect you have already done, and then honing in on needed details.

Bubble Thoughts
They are busily bubbling up today.
Anna, The Cove is just as good in reread as the first time. As always, I’ve picked up more on the reread. I am looking forward to the back story on some of the characters. Good character development when only a bit of information make the reader want more. The series will be much awaited.
Millie, Your posts are always interesting. I’m so glad you are back with us— both for you and for all of us. We have an armoire across from the foot of our bed. I had good laugh when I went to bed the other night. I’ll confess that the fact that typos and other booboos helped me get over my fear of making an error when posting. I had just purchased this laptop when we started the reread last year. The one I was using had crashed ( I had always wondered just what crashing was like, unfortunately I fund out). I was just learning its quirks. I still don’t understand some of them. Our computers are grand but they are in control it seems.

Glad to help ease your fears that you do NOT need to be ‘perfect’ to perfectly fit in. Heaven knows, I’m sure far from perfect, just ask my ‘man in the wardrobe’! LOL

I too enjoy your posts very much. Some are wonderful insights and some make me giggle. You add so much to the joy of visiting The Bistro!

I’m right there with you having to learn an entirely new operating system. You should be a fly atop an armoire and hear me mumble curses under my breath when I’m trying to find ‘where the bleep’ something is now! When my younger son saw the size of the ‘manual’ he laughed and said, “Don’t you just hate books that could take the place of a piece of furniture?” We both laughed remembering his first reaction to his first semester of University. He said, “This is not like high school!” Yes, it is.

Point well made and accepted, Anna. And even if not happily, we see life can go on. I, too, am desperately waiting to see how Clara gets on with her life, Julie.

I think life without struggle is like traveling a long flat road, little change, little effort required but not much to entertain you. We have a long flat road in Australia, it’s called the Nullabor, which means no trees, and it’s dead straight for a 90 mile section!

No, life needs ups and downs for colour. We may not think it when we are in the down bit but how else do we appreciate the up.

It’s like a story needs climaxes and drama. The bit from Elizabeth George may well have been metaphorical but she is right. There is nothing in a story if there is no conflict and drama.

I agree Millie, it’s often a case of looking at a story and thinking life isn’t so bad but also the hope that resolutions in a story bring, particularly when we have trouble seeing how our own challenges might end happily. Hope.

I’m reading the same book, Anna. I took that more in a metaphorical sense. Aren’t we, as readers, comforted when we read about other’s struggles and can say, “Whew! At least my life isn’t THAT bad”? I don’t think I would have used ‘boring’ as much as, “very few people have such perfect lives that there may not be much for the reader to relate to…” But I agree, my favorite books have characters that help me take a breath and laugh. Or at least chuckle and who most definitely offer hope!

One of the things that amazes me about Louise’s writing is her ability to create a “hero” like Gamache who is strong and wise but flawed. I was reading Elizabeth George’s book on writing talking about an author who’s story was about happy people who loved each other and what they did and everything was rosy and it was boring. At the same time, I can’t read books where it is all depression and ugliness. Louise gives us happiness but it isn’t boring. She gives us despair, like Jean Guy, with hope.

Let’s also remember all the fun quips between Gamache and Reine Marie . No, I can’t remember them specificly right now but I love their crazy comments. Very much Louise’s sense of humour.

Oh! Yes! Gamache playing along that he was the pool boy or whatever and admitting R-M was so much better at it than he. Dignified but sassy sense of humor… Most couples of many years have ‘inner jokes’. It makes him more human and loveable.

Me too! What I find fascinating about Louise’s characters is much of what you all said – but there’s more to it somehow… The people are real – I know them. We have gotten to know them over a fairly long time, now, and each time we meet up with them, more is revealed. Yet, Louise’s genius is that she can show us more, and it changes things, but it’s completely believable to us – it’s not “out of character” even when it’s way out of character, like Olivier in The Brutal Telling. We have to accept what he’s done, because he did it, even though we’d never have dreamed he could do such a thing. But the characters and stories are so real to us, that instead of thinking that Louise got it wrong, we just realize we didn’t know enough about Olivier yet. That’s not easy to do!

Slow, slow reader checking in, Anna! I’m in the middle of a huge crisis in The Cove – adrenaline is flowing madly! I am in awe that you could do this in your very first book! While I don’t know the answers yet (but I think I know who dunnit, and I’m hoping that things are going to turn out okay) and I might have to do one mighty read to finish it up. I can’t hold my breath that long, hahaha.

Do remember to breathe Julie! It’s so hard to finish reading when you are hypoxic!

Humm… Your comments, Anna and Robert, gave me a new insight on Peter! Peter was Gamache’s foil! Peter’s contrast to Gamashe is yet another example of the ‘chiaroscuro’ which, if I remember correctly, fascinated you so much.

That’s interesting, Millie – I like to think of Peter as Gamache’s foil. I wonder what he’ll do now? I am hoping for some closure regarding Peter (trying to tiptoe not to include spoilers if people haven’t read that far) in the next book… some conclusion that satisfies me in a way the ending of the last did not quite do. I think we are left hanging somewhat on Clara’s next steps…

Robert – if there’s anything we can do here at the Bistro, it’s accommodate a new context, hahaha. I, too, love Gamache for his strength, his wisdom and above all, his morality. He is a man who knows who he is and is at peace with that. Even with the darkest corners of his heart – he has been afraid, but he has looked anyway. Most of us shut that door and run the other way. Jean Guy is a perfect example of a good man afraid to look to closely inside his heart… I loved watching him on his journey, and what Gamache did to help him at each step, even when he seemed not to be helping him.

Julie, bête noire – singular bêtes noires- plural
You have more than one thing that drives you nuts? Or just one? I have tons. :-p

Of course there should be an s on “bête” – these early mornings are going to do me in, hahaha. Up this morning because someone has stolen our credit card number and gone shopping on the internet in the middle of the night. Little did they know I’d be checking my email in the middle of the night, and get a report on it! Of course, there wasn’t much to do until the Fraud department opened this morning, so of course, I had to wait until morning to call. Ick.

Yes, I have several things that drive me nuts. Many are the little spelling errors that have now become common. “Alot” instead of a lot, “should of” instead of “should have”… Many of these are because a whole generation of children went to school at a time when it was decided it would be detrimental to their egos to mark them down for spelling errors… so now there are many people trying to get ahead in business and not understanding why they can’t get that promotion that they “should of” gotten. But the one that has plagued me all my life (and really, why do I care so much?) is “I could care less.” If you could care less, then you care. If you’re trying to say you don’t care, you have to say “I couldn’t care less.” Add to all this the fact that I never know whether to put the period inside or outside quotes and parentheses, so who am I to be judging anyone’s English? hahahaha.

Did I strike a nerve with the comment? My aunt used to say her pet peeve was “irregardless”… and I know that almost everyone has something like that that drives them crazy. Here’s a funny one – my hubby is extremely intelligent and well-educated, but somehow, he’s gotten it into his head that “diffident” and “indifferent” are synonyms. Every time he describes someone as “diffident” I cringe, but I have been not saying anything about it for 25 years, so it seems a little late to bring it up now… I think that’s one I’m going to have to take to my grave…

P.S. Sorry to hear about your bank card problems. It’s hard enough for me to do mornings when it’s for something fun!

Gamache is indeed a man of morals and decency. I love too that he is human and accessible with it. He maintains his own morality without judging others for their mistakes. I am thinking his saving of Jean Guy and other members of his team.

Hello Robert,
I’m delighted you just jumped in. We tend to create our own ‘context’ so don’t worry about it. And I’m sure it is that ‘true old fashioned gentleman’ nature of Gamache that so many of us are so drawn to. His refined manners are indeed refreshing and welcome. Please feel free to comment again on any topic you wish.

This comment may be out of context however I wish to express my adoration to Louise for creating a character with basic honesty and strength of inner self belief. A true old fashioned gentleman. I do not see the same character out of other mystery writers.

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